Wednesday, April 13, 2011

McCaw to ease in, as other All Blacks play on

Crusaders captain Richie McCaw will be gradually eased back into his team as he returns from injury, while other All Blacks in the team may receive a breather in the coming weeks.

McCaw has returned to team training after recovering from foot surgery, and it is likely that if he is named in the match squad to face the Chiefs at Mount Maunganui, he will play off the bench.

Meanwhile other All Blacks, namely Brad Thorn and Kieran Read, have played nearly continuous rugby as the Crusaders juggernaut has gathered momentum, but circumstances could prevent their rest for a match.

In the case of Thorn, the injury to Sam Whitelock means that despite the Crusaders enviable depth at lock where they can call in veteran Chris Jack, the dual international will likely play on

It was something that Blackadder was monitoring, in accordance with a general view that All Blacks would receive “a couple” of rounds rest ahead of what will be a massive 2011 test season, a decision reached when the All Blacks and Super Rugby coaches met last year.

There was initial hopes that Thorn may have not been required for the Crusaders upcoming two-match series in South Africa and the seemingly tireless lock would receive a spell befitting his huge workload in recent games.

The Crusaders have derby matches against the Chiefs and the Highlanders coming up, before a three-match road trip to Perth, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.

“I was looking at the opportunity of maybe not taking him (Thorn, for matches against the Stormers and Cheetahs), but obviously with Sam Whitelock not being there I don't have a lot of choice; but I may not play Brad in the Perth game (against the Force) and that will give him a week off and then take him to Africa.

"I'm just not sure. I have to do a little bit of planning and work all that out. First things are first and that is to keep this machine rolling."

The machine will continue to operate and for now that means that Matt Todd will likely continue to wear the Crusaders number seven jersey, and that perhaps the best ever openside will play his first match this season off the pine against the Chiefs.

"I probably wouldn't risk starting him," Blackadder said.

"Possibly I will get him off the bench and ease him into it a little bit."

Todd however will likely step down against the Highlanders, as McCaw will not be on the reserves list long.

The other question is regarding Dan Carter, who should be fit to play as his hamstring niggle was likely to only keep him in the casualty ward for a week.

With Berquist doing the job required, Blackadder could be tempted to keep a winning team intact and allow his All Blacks first five-eighth to ease back into action.

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